May 2017, London
Two start-up competitors - one driving force
In less than a month, the annual EyeforTravel Start Up & Innovation awards will kick off in London. TransferTravel and Stay Planner are two in the running
Two competitors in EyeforTravel’s start-up competition with totally different business models - but one driving force! That was frustration. Both Stay Planner and TransferTravel were born when their founders discovered there was no way of getting what they wanted. For the former, it was the classic hassle of the trip to the reception desk every time they wanted to find out what was on offer at the hotel - spa treatments, dining, diving trips and so on . For the latter, it was how to avoid losing money on an unwanted travel booking.
The founders of Stay Planner, husband and wife team Bogdan Dziewierz and Kasia Panskowska, came up with their idea just two and a half years ago when holidaying in Barbados. “The hotel we stayed in was fantastic and offered a lot of additional activities (guided tours of the island, diving trips, spa, etc). But, it was a lot of hassle to book them,” Pankowska explains.
“I know it sounds like a classic ‘first world’ problem, but when you’re having the time of your life snorkelling, you don’t want to disrupt it by having to take a shower, get dressed and go to reception.....”
Both with an IT industry background, they knew what to do! Come up with an app that guests could use to browse and book activities. So excited were they by the idea that they spent the rest of the holiday building it and writing content. Stay Planner was launched!
Back in the UK, at their digital agency business (which builds large-scale eCommerce solutions for and alongside large corporates like Capgemini, Kaplan International Colleges and PwC) they set the team to work. Over the next two years the idea was such a success that they moved the whole team over to working on it. “We were very lucky to work with a few fantastic early adopters, which helped us create the product in line with real life requirements,” says Pankowska.
The product, she adds, is still evolving - “based on our clients’ feedback".
The vision is to become the default digital concierge application for both holidaymakers and business travellers
A recent development was a partnership with TripAdvisor which means hotels now have the option to share information about tours and activities curated by TripAdvisor with their guests.
What next? “Our vision is to become the default digital concierge application,” for both holidaymakers and business travellers.
The team is currently focusing on streamlining property management and point-of-sale integrations to make future roll out quicker. And, they are looking at ways to future-proof the platform. Shortly, they will be able to harness the technology offered by tools like Siri and Amazon Echo.
Geographically, Stay Planner claims to have had “a lot of success” in the Caribbean and Balearics but is now looking closer to home - so the UK and Western Europe. With an eye to what is going on in the world, they think there will be a great future in ‘staycations’ over the coming years.
When travel doesn’t go to plan
At TransferTravel founder Simon Powell turned a sad situation into a winner. He tells the story: “I had a holiday to Dubai booked and I planned to go with my girlfriend at that time. Unfortunately, we broke up just eight weeks before we were due to fly - I was left with a broken heart plus a holiday I did not really want to go on anymore.”
Of course, his ticket was non-refundable, so he thought he’d try and sell it to someone else. (Name changes on bookings are normally allowed as long as conditions are met and on payment of a fee.) But, posting on Facebook and putting it on a listing site failed to bring a result.
That failure did, however, show him the extent of the demand. A bit of research told him that in fact, according to business magazine Forbes, booked but unused hotels stays were worth $8 billion a year. The BBC put unused travel bookings for flight and hotels at an annual £20 billion a year.
$8-bn – the value of booked but unused hotel stays each year, according to Forbes
Looking a bit further for dedicated sites Powell found 1000s of listings on classified sites, but not one that was dedicated just to unwanted travel. People were trying to find each other among crowded sites like Ebay and Gumtree, but there was not specialist in the market.
So, he did just that. He set up Transfer Travel to give individuals the chance to buy and sell in one online marketplace. And he actively markets everyone’s lists to encourage buyers to visit the site - “just like a travel booking site”.
As the company gathered momentum, a new website was built with detailed seller’s profiles, search functionality and fully translated content. New team members came on board as the site saw thousands of new listings and users. To date, the focus has been on customer engagement, the international audience and global partnerships.
Next? There are now 50,000 international users. There has been huge change and a lot of progress - there is a new version of the site, recruitment is growing the UK and US offices and strengthening the team and Transfer Travel has expanded with an acquisition. JumpFlight.com, which describes itself as a second-hand flight portal and specialises in Europe, was bought in January.
Of course, the drive to mobile will see the launch of a new payment gateway and app. And a new marketing target - “...the millions of Airbnb bookings that are predicted to go unused in 2017, due to unforeseen circumstances!”
Read about other entrants in last week’s feature: Two Start-ups Pitching for Stardom. The deadline for entering this year’s awards, to be judged at the European Summit (May 3-4), is April 20. Time is running out. Don’t delay!